Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What is beautiful?

In many cultures a beautiful face is often one that is symmetrical. The eyes line up perfectly, nose centered and mouth under the nose. I am sure at some point you've seen the diagram of some famous beauty with lines drawn through their face proclaiming their symmetrical face is why we find them attractive.

Image Credit - this site has some good info and interesting studies
I'd always thought I was pretty...until one day sophomore year in college. I never felt like I was---head turning gorgeous model type but I knew I was pretty, I definitely never felt ugly growing up.
I worked as a make up artist for Estee Lauder. I loved that job at the time but even more so now that I look back on what it taught me. It was at a training that I heard the rhetorical question that would change the way I looked at myself.
We were learning how to apply eye liner (it seemed really important at the time) for each eye shape. We paired off into groups of two and the instructor made her way around the room. This instructor was the kind of woman who took beauty, make-up and perfume v e r y seriously. She was impeccably dressed, think Devil Who Wears Prada but way more mascara and big fake breasts with of course the trademark extra button undone so as to see a bit of lace on her bra. She walked the line between showy and tasteful better than any best in show pooch.
As she approached our group it was my partners turn to apply eye liner to my eyes. She leans over the table, I of course look at her breasts first and then her eyes. She paused as if to allow a moment for me to experience their greatness and then abruptly begins to speak, 'OK- YES' she says as she looks me over and then it happens... "so you know your eyes aren't even right?" And then she launches into how my partner should deal with this kind of imperfection, ways to trouble shoot my Picasso face with the magic of eye liner. I WAS TOTALLY GUTTED. I came home and relayed the story to my roommate and then went in the bathroom and for God knows how long I stared at my crooked, unevenly placed eyes on my formerly beautiful face and I cried, for days off and on I cried.
For years I thought about it every time I looked in the mirror until one day I just stopped seeing it. Time passed, life rushed in and it no longer mattered. It was ridiculous to let one silly woman define my beauty but I was young and impressionable and raised to respect my elders (I have a feeling calling her my elder would send her to tears, she was in a race against time that one). Did you hear me out there girls!? You get to define your beauty! And you are beautiful! In the grand scheme of things we are all unique and if that means one eye is slightly lower then the other that's perfectly fine with me.
So here's to my uneven eyes and crooked smile!
I wouldn't change them even if I could.
Celebrate your beauty today
and if you'd like please share a bit about embracing your beauty!
p.s. speaking of beautiful my boudoir shots are up at tobeadored! They are sprinkled around several of the portfolios.


mle jean said...

I have mulled over this exact same thing too. I don't have a perfect symmetrical face and it has gotten me down thinking that society only was attracted to perfectly balanced shapes. UUgggghhh. What a waste of time. Personally I'm attracted to people with 'flaws' or unique-ness. Flaunt what you got!!

Marizee said...

To me beautiful is an unmistakable aura around a person. Confidence, exuberance, smiles, laughter, grace, presence, tenderness, so much more. I know it sounds so odd but I've almost lost the ability to pick out a truly "hot" woman because I literally see beauty in every person. I've struggled with self-confidence in this area my whole life, and now all I want is to help women feel their true bursting beauty!

Megan said...

Your post really touched me. I too remember the exact moment I started questioning my beauty. I was 8 and all of the third grade was lined up in the gym, new yearbooks in hand, closely examining each photo while waiting to be excused to class. The girl next to me was saying, "She looks really cute in her picture. She always looks so cute with her hair like that..." And, then she got to me. She looked right at me and said, "Well, that's just not a good picture. We won't say anything." and all her friends blushed, trying not to giggle. I was heartbroken. Was it really just a bad picture or was I actually ugly? I realize now, it was just an unfortunate picture. Giant 80s glasses, hunched posture, and the photographer zoomed way in on my face to avoid glare on my glasses. But, for the next 14 years I was convinced that I was not as pretty as the other girls. I told myself I was chubby, acne covered, smelly, my glasses were so uncool, on and on and on. And, then one day, like you, I looked in the mirror and saw me. I am beautiful. And, I completely agree with Marizee's comment "beautiful is an unmistakable aura." It took me a long time to get there, but I am grateful everyday that I finally can see beauty in myself.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Tammie said...

I have really always thought of myself as average looking. Sort of a 'Plain Jane'. I think it was sort of assigned to me at a young age. My sister, being blonde with hazel blue/green eyes always attracted the first looks from people & got more attention from strangers. I have brown hair and eyes. She was outgoing, I was very shy. Some people on my Mom's side of the family seemed to be fascinated that a blonde child had appeared among them. I don't spend much time looking in mirrors. Looking in one twice a day is typical. (I also have difficulty accepting it when I am told I am pretty.) As a result of my lack of attention, I have been horrified to discover that I have been walking around with a large zit without any clue that it was there. I doubt that my face is symmetrical, I don't wear makeup, so nobdy ever had the opportunity to tell me how flawed I was, or how to hide it. However, I always knew I was smart, and that while beauty is fleeting, intelligence can be increased. I outgrew my shyness for the most part, and I never lacked confidence, or determination. (aka-stubborness)

The Beholder-
You know, I have met some individuals who were beautiful from a distance, but after I met them, they immediately became less attractive. They were boorish, self-absorbed, egomaniacs.
On the other hand, I have met people who were not classically physically attractive in the face, that truly became more attractive in my eyes after I got to know them. One of them was one of my first loves.

E. Charlotte said...

Your posts are always so inspiring and optimistic! I always get excited when I see you've written a new one. I really enjoyed this one! I too have noticed I'm not perfectly symmetric, that my teeth aren't perfectly straight, or that I have a wrinkle here, or an extra freckle there. What I learned though was that I got most of those characteristics from my ancestors! When I look in the mirror now, I don't see flaws, instead I see family; the nose of my beloved grandmother, the eyes of my wonderful dad... :) I am lucky to be so honored!

kelli said...

oh I have uneven eyes too! I never really cared and then one day I looked at a picture of myself and my daughter (kate) and realized she has my uneven eyes and I think it's cool:)

p.s. your eyes are a GORGEOUS color.

Mary said...

Hurray! I can see your post. Loved the Boudoir shots. Curious to know which one was Cliff's favorite? I have a couple.

You beautiful thing, you!

Tammie said...

Of course I am not impling that my sister is not smart too. She is also much more self motivated than I am. But based on my childhood, I think blondes do have more fun.

spindelmaker said...

When I was younger my best friend was more outgoing and more popular than me, so I thought she was the pretty one, and I was just ordinary... Now I see that it was her outgoing personality, and my shyness that was the cause.
Another thing is that since I´ve been born, I´ve always been skinny. Even at the age of 40, I still have the model-sized body. Perfect strangers have walked up to me when I was out, telling me "Don´t think you´re pretty, just because you´re thin!" or "You´d look good if you just put on some weight".
I don´t give much for drunk people´s "advice"...
There is a lot of focus on people trying to loose weight, and not so much on people who have a hard time gaining weight. I´ve heard rumors from my neighbors thinking I had anorexia, when the truth is, I am and have always been both healthy and fit.
I´m thinking that a lot of people throwing me negative stuff because I´m skinny, is based on jealousy.
I decided that I didn´t want to waste time on worrying on whether I was pretty or not simply because: If I´m happy, I´m beautiful, and if I´m sad/mad, I´m not. The inside shines through. that´s just the way it is.
If there are two things I could change about my body, it would be: better eyesight and a stronger back.
Thanks for a great post, Lacy!

Tammie said...

Oooooh! I was pondering life, the world, and everything else, and it occurred to me what beautiful is. Remember in 'Fantasia' when the Hippos are doing ballet to 'The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy'? They are graceful, confident, talented, and I honestly think they are quite lovely and beautiful.

Summer Says... said...

I missed commenting on the day you posted but wanted to still add my two cents.

1. I've never noticed your eyes weren't even - and can't really see it in your picture.

2. I know it's cliche - but it's so true - people put others down (or point out their flaws) to make themselves feel better. Too bad they don't realize how flawed it makes them to those around.

3. I wonder what the results would be if you polled woman about whether they grew up believing they were pretty vs. ugly and how successful they feel presently. I bet there is a connection. I would also be willing to bet that someone along the way told them they needed to change.

4. I had a coworker who always said "pretty is as pretty does." I totally agree - and aside from your physical beauty, I think your soul radiates your positive attitude, generous spirit, and constant encouragement to others. That makes you more gorgeous than any cover model or Miss/Mrs/Ms America any day.

Jennifer said...

It's so sad the way that society views "beauty". I don't view anyone as perfect by any means, especially myself, but the fact that there are such stipulations on the word makes it so difficult to look in the mirror everyday! But then again, I see though who look visually perfect and aren't the type of people you would want to be around or look up to. IT's definitely saddening...but I truly believe everyone is beautiful in their own right...you shouldn't have to be completely symmetrical, or weigh under 100 lbs to be seen as so.

and I LOVE your eye color, lacy! you are beautiful inside and out, I can just feel it. :)